Conserving Water: Training Your Toilet to Use Less

Toilet Training Saves Water and Money.

The toilet is the biggest water user in your home, using five to seven gallons of water, on the average, with each flush. It is also one of the most common, unnoticed locations of water leakage.
If your toilet leaks, you can easily lose thousands of gallons a day, undetected. There are, however, ways to reduce use-and-waste and thereby cut your water costs.

The following information identifies water-saving devices for the toilet and offers a repair guide to common toilet problems.

Saving Water With Each Flush

The most common method for enhancing conservation is by the use of displacement devices. They fit easily inside your toilet tank and reduce the volume of water used in each flush. Most of the devices are inexpensive and will save you money.

NOTE: Whichever device you select, make sure that it does not displace so much water that two flushes are required to clear your bowl. If so, you will be using nearly double the amount of water.
Also, do not put displacement devices in low-water using toilets. Effective in January, 1993, state law required the installation of toilets that used only one and one-half gallons when flushed.

Displacement bags

The bag should be filled with water, securely sealed at the top, and then hung in the tank. Make sure bag does not interfere with the operation of the toilet tank.

displacementPlastic Bottles

Plastic bottles, milk or chlorine jugs can be filled with water and weighted down with a few stones and placed in the most open portion of the tank. This will save as much water as is displaced by the bottle. Make sure the bottle does not interfere with the operation of the moving parts in the tank.

All displacement devices should be checked periodically to insure that they remain in place.
NOTE: Do not use bricks as a displacement device. They will erode and the particles can clog your drainage system.

Stopping Leaks - Troubleshooting Guide

gutsBelow is a trouble-shooting guide that highlights four of the most common toilet problems and their solutions. Please refer to the toilet diagram for help in finding and identifying problem parts.
Note: Before beginning any repairs, shut off the toilet's water supply valve under the tank.  If the toilet does not have a shutoff valve, flush the toilet to empty the tank; then gently prop a stick under the float arm.

Water Runs, Tank Doesn't Fill

stopperOne of the most common leaks occurs at the discharge opening at the bottom of the tank. Sometimes the leak is easily heard and obvious; other times it is silent. You can check for leaks of this type by using either of these simple tests:

  • Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the bowl shows of food coloring 10 or 15 minutes later, you have a leak.
  • Turn off water supply valve directly under the toilet tank and leave it off overnight. If the tank is still full in the morning, you don't have a leak. If the water level has dropped, repairs are needed.

The problem may be in one of these places:

  • The lift wires that raise and lower the flush ball can become corroded or bent. Smooth rough, corroded wires with steel wool or purchase replacements.
  • A lift wire that is out of alignment will prevent the flush ball from dropping directly over the flush valve. To realign, loosen the set screw and move the wire back and forth until the ball drops directly over the valve. Retighten the screw.
  • A flush ball that does not fit tightly on the drain valve is sometimes the cause of a running toilet. If the lift wires are operating properly, the trouble may be a worn flush ball. If the rubber has hardened or if the ball is out of shape, purchase a replacement ball and screw it into the end of the lift wire.
  • Often the flush valve can become rough and uneven from corrosion. This prevents the flush ball from sealing the opening tightly. Drain the tank and smooth the metal opening with steel wool. This will prevent water from leaking under the flush ball.

Inadequate Flush

When the flush handle must be held down to complete the flushing action, the lift wires may be at fault. The lift wires may be raising the flush ball high enough to prevent the force of the out rushing water from pulling it back down too quickly. If this is the case, straighten and re-bend the upper lift wire to shorten it. The shorter lift wire will hold the flush ball well out of the way of the rushing water.

An inadequate flush can also be caused by the float ball being adjusted too low to allow a full tank of water. To adjust the water level, bend the float arm upward. If you've installed dams, they may need to be moved back.

Leaks Under The Toilet Tank

A leak at the outlet or where the outlet pipe joins the bowl usually requires removing the tank. This is not a job for the novice. Call a plumber for repair.

Tank Fills, Water Still Runs.

Check the float ball. It must ride high enough on the water to shut off the intake float. The water level in most tanks should be three-fourths of an inch below the top of the overflow. If the water level is too high, adjust the float position by gently bending the float arm slightly downward.

If the float ball still rides low in the water it may have a leak. Unscrew the old ball and replace it with a new one. Non-corrosive plastic balls typically are available for less than $2.00.

If lifting the float rod doesn't shut off the water, washers inside the inlet valve likely are worn. It is simpler, but more costly to replace the valve unit than to replace the washer. Removal of the worn valve and replacement installation may require a plumber.